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Match Game

Tags: leafs compared

The Toronto Maple Leafs are entering year 2 of their full rebuild.

Thus, the team is laden with young players and top prospects looking for a chance to prove themselves at the NHL level.

Every player tends to develop at a different rate. The really good ones explode on the scene as teenagers coming straight from the draft and the junior ranks.

Others need a bit of seasoning in the AHL or some professional league that isn’t the NHL.

Others require a few years at the NHL level to get their feet wet and bloom a bit later in their careers.

Unfortunately there are some who just don’t adjust altogether for one reason or another and end up with the “bust” label if they were initially highly touted entering the league.

The Leafs have a lot of players at varying levels of their development. At quick glance, one can get sort of an idea on the kind of ceiling a player has by comparing them with the trajectory and likeness to other, more establish players who have eventually proven themselves in the NHL.

Some Leafs have proven themselves already. Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul, Leo Komarov, Matt Martin, Brooks Laich, Colin Greening, Milan Michalek, James vanReimsdyk, Roman Polak, Matt Hunwick, Fredrik Andersen are pretty well what you see; veteran guys who are filling in a variety of roles from top 4 D, to top line wingers to bottom 6 forwards, to number 1 goalie.

These players have not much, if anything left to prove. Some though are in a dogfight to stay in the NHL and it won’t be easy on this Leaf team with quite a few young talents up and coming.

12 Leafs debuted for the first time last season. All of them are in the hunt for jobs this coming year. Some are much closer to guaranteed work than others, but for a team that finished last overall and has so much room to grow, no one should be taking roster spots for granted.

Expectations are going to slowly rise for the Leafs as they move further away from ground zero of the rebuild. Often times a player’s expected performance is measured against a player past or present who displays similar traits.

With that in mind, lets take a look at the Leafs young players and see who they could be Compared to.

Mitch Marner

Arguably no one in the Leafs organization had a better year than Marner last year.

A OHL championship, an OHL outstanding player award, a Memorial Cup championship, there wasn’t much Marner couldn’t do last season.

While he is still eligible to play junior, (and he probably has a slight bit of hope to redeem himself on Team Canada at the WJC), he should be a Maple Leaf next season.

He looks ready. Though he is still very small, and could potentially be pushed around, he has the mental toughness to fight through it. But what will make its mark at the NHL level will be his world class skill.

A player who he could be compared to is another former London Knight, Patrick Kane.

In his one season in London, he registered 145 points, easily winning the scoring title. In Marner’s last 2 seasons he has had seasons of 126 and 116 points showing off his dynamic skill.

Kane went 1st overall in 2007. Marner was the 4th overall selection in 2015. In many other years he would have been a top 2 pick had there not been McDavid and Jack Eichel in that same draft.

Kane is one of the leagues biggest stars on one of the marquee teams. Marner is looking for stardom on his hometown team, the centre of the hockey universe, the Maple Leafs.

Kane has won a scoring championship, has a Cup clinching OT goal and 3 championships altogether, and is one of the most exciting players to watch. Marner has that kind of skill, the kind of savvy, the imagination, and a lot of will to make those kind of things happen for him. And ironically, like Kane, he will start his career with an elite centre joining him as a rookie.

Auston Matthews

Speaking of elite centres, Matthews is wildly projected to be a classic no. 1 centre that all teams crave.

Matthews has good size, a tremendously high skill level, and loads of heart and that should win him a lot of fans, if he doesnt have enough already.

He took a widely different path to the NHL, playing in Switzerland, but that didn’t hurt his stock at all. Like all teens and 18 year olds coming into the league, an adjustment is a given. But on a team on the rise, Matthews will be one of the drivers on this team as it tries to reach the ultimate goal.

A player who he can be compared to is Jonathan Toews of the Hawks.

That is a lofty comparison indeed as it was comparing Marner to Pat Kane, but Matthews has similar attributes.

If he happens to match a fraction, a small fraction at that of the success Toews has had, its a huge coup for the Leafs.

Toews is a champion in every way. That is all that the Leafs want; championships. Matthews will have to be the leader in that regard and be the one to lead this team.

The Stanley Cup is extremely hard to win. But in looking at most, if not all the cup winning teams, much of their success was attributed to having a top notch no. 1 centre. Of course a lot of other things need to go right, but success today starts with a driving force up the middle. Matthews will look to be that force and has all the abilities to be just that.

Kerby Rychel

The Leafs acquired Rychel in a deal with Columbus for Scott Harrington.

He has good size and can play physical, but nowhere near like his dad Warren. That being said, the Leafs could use more size in their lineup and they hope Rychel brings them that edge.

He’s not without skill. He had 2 40 goal seasons in the OHL.

A player he could be compared to is Alex Killorn.

Though they took different routes to the NHL, as Rychel was a touted 1st rounder from the OHL and Killorn played College hockey and was a late round pick, both play a heavy game, using their size. But too, they have the skill to play up and down the lineup. If Rychel can do that consistently, he could find some good success here.

William Nylander

Here is another legacy player who’s father, like Rychel, had a long NHL career.

The younger Nylander, like his dad, is a highly skilled playmaker with great hands and vision.

Both playmakers, William though will likely be asked to score a few more goals as the Leafs right now don’t have a pure sniper after the departure of Phil Kessel.

A player who he could be compared to is Claude Giroux.

In 5 straight non-lockout seasons, Giroux has scored at least 20 goals. But he’s also put up big assist number and the Leafs would love those point totals from Nylander. Giroux is also small in stature but isn’t one to back down. As for Nylander, he is small but not a soft Swede by any means.

Fredrik Gauthier

Gauthier is a big, strong, defensive first centre who is projected to fill a checking role with limited offence. If he uses that size and continues improvement on face offs, he should have a lengthy NHL career.

You can’t teach that kind of size. With the Leafs being a small club right now, Gauthier’s size will be quite the asset to this team.

A player who he could be compared to is Brian Boyle from Tampa.

Like Boyle, Gauthier was a late 1st rounder. Boyle took a few years to develop, blossoming when he went to the Rangers and has been a key cog for the Lightning the last 2 years. He’s been invaluable with his checking and huge size and has been to 2 of the last 3 finals.

In 4 of the last 6 seasons he’s scored double digits in goals. The Leafs would see that as a bonus if Gauthier can reach that at the NHL level.

Zach Hyman

Hyman was a less heralded acquisition by the Leafs but really was quite a pleasant surprise with his speed and a bit of spunk.

He’s a versatile player, able to play up and down the lineup by being responsible defensively. Hyman should have a strong chance at being a regular next season.

A player who he could be compared to is Craig Smith from Nashville.

Smith has been a consistent 20 goal player the last 3 seasons for the Preds. Though his point totals have declined, he’s a solid depth scorer.

The Leafs will welcome that production from Hyman, who like Smith is a product of the NCAA.

Brendan Leipsic

Leipsic had a solid, but brief Leaf debut with 3 points in 6 games. He’s had 2 productive seasons in the AHL so far.

Size though is a big questionmark being just 5’9. He will have to overcome it to play regularly in the NHL.

A player who he could be compared to is Tyler Johnson of the Lightning.

The diminutive Johnson capped a 4 year junior career with a 121 point season. Leipsic also had an impressive 100+ point year in junior.

In 2 seasons in the A, Johnson had 68 and 65 points, topping 30 goals each year. Leipsic has averaged 54 points in each season in the AHL.

It will be interesting to see if Leipsic will get a good chance with the Leafs. There is a lot of competition for jobs and there’s certainly enough small sized forwards on the Leafs that could make Leipsic redundant.

Josh Leivo

The time is now for Leivo having signed a 2 year, 1 way contract.

He has shown some goal scoring ability and the Leafs, who had a hard time scoring last year, will welcome it.

He had a good playoff for the Marlies, leading the forwards in scoring, so it makes sense after 3 AHL seasons that he graduate to the big club.

A player who he could be compared to is Matt Moulson of the Sabres.

Moulson had 3 straight 30 goal seasons playing with John Tavares in New York. He was a bit of a late bloomer, becoming a full time NHLer at age 26. Though his scoring prowess has slowed since he left NY, he is a proven scorer.

Leivo, who had 5 goals in 12 games last year, an about 30 goal pace, could be the goal scorer Toronto needs so long as he finds that elusive consistency most young players try to find early in their careers. Armed with this new 2 year deal, he has a chance to prove he should be part of the Leafs long term plans.

Andreas Johnson

Johnson is another smallish, but skilled forward which the Leafs have an abundance of.

His first foray into North America started on a difficult note after he was hit viciously in an AHL playoff game and suffered a concussion. The Leafs are hopeful he has fully recovered and will be ready for a full season in the AHL.

A player who he could be compared to is Gustav Nyquist of the Red Wings.

Both Swedes with similar skill sets and size, Nyquist however came from the NCAA, a rarity for Europeans, but something becoming more common. Johnson of course spent the last 3 years in the SEL.

Nyquist, after 3 seasons in College and 2 more in the AHL, had a 27 and 28 goal season in the first 2 full years with Detroit before slumping to 17 last year.

The Leafs will be looking for Johnson to have an offensive impact with the Marlies and almost certainly will be there the full season. He will be looking to replace Nylander among other potential graduates as one of the Marlies top line players.

Dmytro Timashov

Speaking of small wingers, Timashov is yet another one within the Leafs organization.

The ultra skilled winger from Sweden has had a 90 point and 85 point campaign in the Q. He is known more as being a playmaker but exploded for 13 goals in 21 playoff games in the most recent playoffs. He is expected to be part of the Marlies roster this coming season.

A player who he could be compared to is Johnny Gaudreau of the Flames.

Could Timashov, the diminutive 5’9 forward be the Leafs version of the 5’9 Flames star?

Skill is not an issue. Will be interesting to see if he can skate well enough and be strong enough to handle the NHL rigors.

Gaudreau had a points explosion in the NCAA with 80 points in 40 games his final season. He has not fallen off at all in the NHL with seasons of 64 and 78 points to start his career.

Timashov will likely not be rushed to the NHL as Gaudreau was, who never played an AHL game. But, if he puts up big numbers in the AHL, there may be no way the Leafs can hold him back, which many seem to want to do for players of this size.

Tobias Lindberg

The Dion Phaneuf trade not only eliminated the big cap hit, but also brought to the Leafs Lindberg.

The former Oshawa General had a decent 1st season in the AHL scoring 11 goals and 34 points. He also was a suprise member of the Leafs roster for 6 games as the team rotated in Marlie players at the end of the season. He didn’t look too out of place with 2 points, an even plus/minus in those 6 games.

A player who he could be compared to is former Leaf Victor Stalberg of the Hurricanes.

Stalberg has been a well travelled veteran in the NHL with stops in Toronto, Chicago, Nashville, the Rangers and now Carolina. He has survived in the NHL because he has good size, 6’3, and can skate well.

Lindberg offers those traits as well. While Stalberg has not put up great numbers, (his one good year had him score 22 goals with the Hawks), he is a serviceable NHLer. The Leafs hope Lindberg amounts to more than that, but he, for now, adds decent depth to the organization.

Kasperi Kapanen

Like Rychel and Nylander, Kapanen’s dad also played in the NHL. Sami Kapanen played 831 games in the NHL with the Canes and Flyers.

The Leafs would love to see a lengthy career from Finland’s 2016 WJC hero who came over in the Kessel trade.

The skill is definitely there. He isn’t big, but like most Finns, Kapanen works hard. He is though a work in progress and while a well known name having been a former 1st round pick, he probably needs more development than the likes of Nylander, Marner or Matthews.

A player who he could be compared to, that is still playing in the NHL, is David Perron of the Blues. A player who will make a career as being a supporting cast member providing offensive depth.

Perron, who is now back with St. Louis after starting his career there, has had some decent offensive seasons playing on the top 2 lines with both the Blues and Oilers. He had a few injury issues but after struggling in Pittsburgh, he looked good again with the Ducks late last year and hoping he can carry the success over in his 2nd Blues stint.

The Leafs probably have higher hopes Kapanen reaches a higher ceiling. But they’d take a career like Perron or his dad’s for that matter.

Connor Brown

Brown was a relatively unkown pick back in 2012 who sort of came out of the blue in 2014 being a teammate of Connor McDavid in Erie and exploding for 128 points.

Brown has continued to put up numbers in the AHL with 61 points in his debut season followed by 29 points in 34 games in an injury shortened year last year. He will be in the mix to challenge for a job in the NHL after a solid 6 points in 7 game debut last year with the Leafs.

A player who he could be compared to is Mike Hoffman from the Sens.

Hoffman, like Brown, took a couple years before exploding offensively in junior. He honed his craft in the AHL spending 4 seasons there, before becoming a fixture in the Sens lineup for the 2014-15 season. He has averaged 28 goals and 53 points in his 2 years in the NHL and a team like Toronto would love that kind of consistency from Brown.

The only drawback for Brown is his skating. But he’s greatly improved and if he can stay healthy, he could quietly be the Leafs top rookie as soon as this coming season.

Nikita Soshnikov

“Sosh” as Mike Babcock refers him as, is another one of last year’s rookies who made a strong impression on the Leafs coach last season.

He has one of the better shot releases of the Leafs prospects, but he is more than just a shooter. He has a solid all around game, the popular 200 foot player if you will.

He had 18 goals in his first AHL season and score 5 points in 11 games as a Leaf. He is a little further along than some other prospects his age having played 2 years already in the KHL prior to coming over.

A player who he could be compared to is Tomas Tatar of the Red Wings.

The Leafs are probably hoping that it doesn’t require 4 years in the AHL before Soshnikov is ready. Tatar spent 4 years in the A, finishing his career with a bang with 16 goals in 24 playoff games culminating with a Calder Cup Championship.

As a Wing the last 3 years, he has averaged 23 goals, and despite his lack of size, there are a few greasy goals to go along with some beauties in his repertoire.

Soshnikov is not afraid to be involved. Whether or not his lack of size will wear him down at the NHL level remains to be seen. But he has a major league shot and that should give him a legit shot this year to be a regular.

Yegor Korshkov

Korshkov was a surprise pick as the 1st pick in the 2nd round this past draft. As a 19 year old and having been passed over last year, many were shocked at this selection with a few more heralded prospects still available.

At 6’4, he has great size and you can’t teach that. He had a very impressive WJC for Russia last December and is classically labeled “a late bloomer”.

A player who he could be compared to is former Leaf Nikolay Kulemin.

Korshkov is a bit taller than Kulemin, but for Toronto, Kuly was often one of the team’s strongest players. He was hard player to push around and that size, to go with his good skating, made him an invaluable player defensively for the Leafs.

Korshkov, once he puts on some bulk, could be that kind of player, with some offensive upside. The Leafs thought that had something after Kulemin scored 30 goals in 2011 but he never could regain that kind of scoring touch.

Korshkov is a new wave Leafs, a player with skill to go with size as the team looks for balance on their roster that is loaded with smallish players.

Byron Froese

Froese has had a late start to his NHL career after being a 4th round pick of the Blackhawks in 2009. He played his first games in the NHL this past season, scoring 2 goals in 56 games in a bit of a injury shortened season.

He is carving a niche as a 4th line forward who can win faceoffs and kill penalties. He did show some offensive prowess in the AHL, but seems best suited in a checking role as an NHLer.

A player who he could be compared to is Luke Glendening of the Red Wings.

Glendening made the Wings as an undrafted free agent out of college. After an ordinary 1st year in a limited role, he has had 2 decent seasons missing just 1 game and being a valuable depth player for Detroit. He just signed a new 3 year extension at $1.8 million per season with the Wings and now seems to be a fixture in the bottom 6.

Peter Holland

The Leafs brought back Holland on a 1 year prove it deal and the team is hopeful the 24 year old can finally put in a consistent season.

Holland has had chances but hasn’t delivered much as yet in 2.5 years as a Leaf.

The skill level is there, he wasn’t a 1st round pick by the Ducks for nothing, but the consistency has dogged him, as has some injuries.

A player who he could be compared to is Nick Bonino of the Penguins.

Bonino, now 28, turned the corner some when he turned 25 putting in a very good, 20+ goal season with the Ducks before being traded to Vancouver in the Ryan Kesler trade.

He didn’t fare great with Vancouver and was rather ordinary with Pittsburgh before exploding for 18 points in the playoffs, playing on Pittsburgh’s best line that help lead them to a Cup win.

Obviously playing with better players will help Holland, and the upcoming season may see the team ice it’s most skilled lineup in a while. It will all be a matter of Holland being the driver here for himself or else he will be driven right out of the organization.

Morgan Rielly

Rielly has nothing to prove in terms of being an NHLer. He is a bonified NHL caliber defenceman.

That being said, he has something to prove to become the defenceman he wants to be and that the Leafs want him to be.

Each year his point totals have risen as has his responsibility. This past season saw Rielly face more and more the league’s best players and this season we can expect that again.

A player who he can be compared to is another BC native, Duncan Keith (who was born in Winnipeg, but moved to BC via Fort Frances as a young teen).

Rielly has a ways to go to be a Duncan Keith but he carries similar traits. He’s a great skater, has offensive ability and can be a workhorse like Keith.

Keith really boosted his point total in his 4th season but he too started his NHL career at age 22, with the benefit of 2 AHL seasons. This will be Reilly’s 4th year and he’s 22 now. No matter the age though, Reilly seems poised to boost his game more this year with a stronger cast around him.

Jake Gardiner

Gardiner is 26 and we pretty much have a good idea of what he is. He is an offensive defenceman, a rover, a riverboat gambler.

His skating ability allows him to be that dangerous threat and helps him get back when he gets into trouble. At times, it may be more often than coaches like, but it seems counter productive to reign in this kind of talent.

A player who he can be compared to is Brian Campbell now of the Hawks.

Campbell spent about 3 seasons in the AHL after 4 years in junior. This contrasts with Gardiner who, after 3 college seasons, played right away in the NHL. Differences aside, both have tremendous skating ability and can provide offence from the defence. That’s exactly what has given Campbell a lengthy career of over 1000 games.

Gardiner is 675 games away from that mark. The Leafs would love to see the goals and end to end rushes and less defensive mistakes in those games.

Connor Carrick

Carrick is a rising member of the Leafs young group. He could develop into one of Lou Lamoriello’s big steals via trade.

He was the leader for the Marlies in scoring in the playoffs and it earned him a 2 year contract. A steal he will be if he’s a leading scorer for the Leafs.

A player who he could be compared to is former Leaf Anton Stralman.

Stralman is not a big guy, but plays a smart, steady game and can provide some offence. A RH shot, he has been invaluable the last 3 years, helping NY to a cup appearance before helping Tampa to 2 long playoffs.

Carrick, also righthanded and not big, was very solid in his Leaf debut and carried that through with the Marlies. He hasn’t been talked about much, but could be a big part of the team next year.

Frank Corrado

Corrado was a top prospect with the Canucks, but lost his job last year, resulting him being placed on waivers and ending up with the Leafs.

It was a bit of a lost season for Corrado sitting mostly as the Leafs spare D and only getting a real chance once some veterans were move away.

A player who he could be compared to is Jason Demers, now of the Panthers.

Demers spent 4 years in the Q, then a couple of AHL seasons before becoming a regular in San Jose.

Not a big point getter, he can though provide some puck moving ability and some offence when given the chance. He had a 34 point season a couple years ago and last year scored 7 goals, a career high.

Corrado is in tough to win a job on D. He needs playing time. He needs a chance. It doesn’t seem likely though that will come on the team he grew up cheering for.

Martin Marincin

Marincin was quietly one of the Leafs better players on the analytics side last year. He is big, can skate and looked fairly reliable defensively in a limited role.

He showed some offensive ability when he played his one year in the WHL, but here, he is strictly a defensive defenceman. That is really the only way he will have an extended NHL career.

A player who he could be compared to is Jonathan Ericsson of the Red Wings.

Ericsson is a very experienced player having played 3 years in the SEL, 3 in the AHL and 7 in the NHL. He has scored no more than 15 points in any season in the NHL. He has been a valuable defensive defenceman and partner to Nik Kronvall on the Wing’s top pair.

Marincin will not be a top pairing player, but if he can continue to provide decent play in the bottom pair, he should have a lengthy career.

Nikita Zaitsev

The Leafs finally signed Zaitsev after the season and he should be pencilled into the Leafs top 6 D.

Zaitsev played 7 seasons in the KHL and showed some offensive ability. He had 13 points in 20 playoff games helping his team to the KHL finals.

He is a seasoned rookie having played so many years professionally, it will just be a matter of how long it will take to adjust to the North American game. There is a lot to like about Zaitsev as he has good size and good puck moving ability.

A player who he could be compared to is Alec Martinez of the Kings.

In 2 of the last 3 seasons, Martinez has managed double digit goal totals. He has emerged as the Kings 2nd best offensive weapon after the departure of Slava Voynov. After 3 years in college and 2 more in the AHL, Martinez became a regular in the Kings lineup at age 24, the same as Zaitsev.

It will be interesting to see what kind of numbers Zaitsev can produce. He will be behind Reilly and Gardiner in terms of power play opportunities but he offers a righthanded shot and decent skill.

Victor Loov

Loov is one of the few prospects left from the Brian Burke era. He is a big, rangy blueliner not that different from Marincin in terms of size and mobility.

He may be a bit more rugged and seems to be more willing to throw his weight around and engage physically.

A player who he could be compared to is Ladislav Smid of the Flames.

Smid has been an NHLer for 10 year and played 583 games. He was a highly rated player in his draft year being picked 9th overall. He was part of the Chris Pronger to Anaheim trade.

While not the prettiest player, you could count on Smid to play physical and give a strong effort.

Loov seems to be developing into that sort of player who will defend honestly and willingly. Offensively the Leafs should expect little from Loov, but with a glut of offensive defenceman already, it will be important to find players who can take care of their own end.

Rinat Valiev

Valiev was one of the many rookies who made his NHL debut last year.

He is a rare case being Russian, but coming to the NHL via the USHL and the WHL rather than staying home and playing in the Russian leagues.

He had some very good numbers in junior including a 46 point season in 52 games with Kootenay. His first pro season he managed 23 points in 60 games but he went pointless in 10 games in the NHL.

A player who he could be compared to is Michal Rozsival of the Blackhawks.

Rozsival was also a mid round pick out of the Western Hockey League back in 1996. He spent a couple of season in the minors before becoming a regular on the Pens defence. His offensive game didn’t show until he went to NY as a member of the Rangers. In 2008 he had a career high 13 goals.

Currently he is a depth piece on the perennially contending Hawks team and is closing in on 1000 games.

Valiev has some offensive potential as the team likes his skating and puckhandling abilities. The Leafs will likely remain patient with him however and allow him another season, maybe 2 to develop with the Marlies.

Travis Dermott

Dermott was selected in the 2nd round in 2015 and has been a member of the high powered Erie Otters of the OHL.

He should be a regular with the Marlies, his first pro season, and he will be another player the Leafs take a slower approach with.

He has a good feel for the game and definitely showed a lot of offensive skill with Erie. It will be that expected adjustment period going from junior the the minor pro ranks for which we will see some greater development in Dermott’s game.

A player who he could be compared to is TJ Brodie of the Flames.

Like Dermott, Brodie is an OHL grad. He spent parts of 3 seasons in the AHL before making the Flames full time. That may be the kind of development time the Leafs see with Dermott.

With his hockey sense however, he could speed up the process without a doubt. That kind of hockey sense and awareness is why Brodie is such a terrific player.

2 straight 40 plus point seasons aside, Brodie often is playing big minutes against the opposing team’s best players. That may be asking a lot for Dermott but the potential is there to be a strong two-way threat.

Andrew Nielsen

The Leafs drafted Nielsen with the idea they’d get a defenceman with good size and some offensive upside.

They didn’t expect 70 points in 71 games in his 2nd WHL season. While he doesn’t project to be a big offensive defenceman, the production is a pleasant surprise and it will be interesting to see if Nielsen can carry that over at a higher level.

A player he could be compared to is Colton Parayko of the Blues.

Parayko played his first season in the NHL last year after a 3 year career in the NCAA. He wasn’t a well known prospect after being selected in the 2012 draft. But the quick development he has shown really shot him up the rankings.

Nielsen, like Parayko, has the size and a big point shot that could make him a very effective player. It seems likely that at age 19, Nielsen will need a few development years. But he already seems to have advanced his game the last year so the Leafs are hoping he continues the forward momentum.

Garret Sparks

Sparks debut was memorable as he shut out the Oilers in his first NHL start. Things though went downhill from that point and after a period of time sitting out with injury, he didn’t seem like the same player afterwards.

Sparks struggled in the playoffs splitting time with Antoine Bibeau and now it is a bit up in the air what kind of goalie the Leafs have with him.

A player who he could be compared to is former Leaf James Reimer.

Reimer throughout his career was a battler. He overcame the odds to be a decent NHL goalie. It will be that kind of battle, which Sparks has shown, that will be needed here for Sparks to turn himself into an NHLer.

Reimer long was the answer, then not the answer, then the answer again to the Leafs goaltending woes. But even the good start to last year was not enough for the organization to bring him back and be the guy going forward, hence the acquisition of Fredrik Andersen.

Sparks will need a strong, consistent year next year. At this point, without a veteran backup signed as yet, he is in the running for the Leafs backup goalie job. But its not likely the Leafs will want that scenario as they would probably prefer Sparks to play and continue to refine his game.

Antoine Bibeau

Bibeau is like Sparks in that he is looking for that elusive consistency. He is right now in the battle for the backup job with the Leafs since the team has yet to find a veteran to fill that role.

Lamoriello has stated he prefer a backup, but it looks like there too could be a competition between the two Marlie starters from last year.

Bibeau did not though get into a game with the Leafs and is still waiting to make his NHL debut. His record with the Marlies looked good, but the GAA and specifically save percentage, which was .909, needs greater improvement.

A player who he could be compared to is Jake Allen of the Blues.

Allen had a very strong Junior career in the Q and then spent a total of 4 season with the Blues AHL affiliate. He made his NHL debut in the playoffs and played a string of games during his 3rd AHL season. After that year however he spent a full year further developing in the minors.

After splitting time with Brian Elliott, Allen now is the Blues no. 1 goalie.

It will be difficult to say if Bibeau can become a no. 1 goalie in 3 years time. As mentioned, he needs to show more consistency if he wishes to reach that point. The talent is definitely there and being 6’3, he has ideal size for goal. But, time may be running out on the young goalie with expansion around the corner and perhaps better options available now should he not improve.

Obviously it is a lot to expect for all these young players to meet these expectations and comparisons. Some will meet and exceed th m, others simply may not make it at all.

Players usually carve out their own niche and one would hope that five, ten years down the line there will be comparisons done to say this guys the next Marner or that guy’s the next Matthews.

But it will take time, hard work, patience and a bit of good fortune to see how it turns out. There’s plenty of excitement and everyone can hardly wait to see what these young Leafs become.

This post first appeared on Leafs Hub, please read the originial post: here

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